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Daily News - Monday, 28 December 2009

Haiti gets 5 years of tariffs
Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso says that the Dominican government has not taken a stance on the European Union's decision to accept Haiti's conditions for its participation as a member of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Cariforum countries. The conditions levy high tariffs on imports from Cariforum countries, including the Dominican Republic, its principal trading partner. The EPA was signed on 15 October 2008 in Barbados, but Haiti did not sign the treaty.
The tariffs affect 70 products exported from the DR. Haiti signed the agreement on 10 December. Morales Troncoso said the Dominican government was formally notified on 22 December. He said that the National Commission of Trade Negotiations (CNNC) needed to formulate its position.
In a statement published in Listin Diario, Morales Troncoso said that the entry of Haiti to the EPA strengthens judicial security and will generate new jobs in Haiti. He said it introduces institutional and legal commitments on agriculture, customs regulations and sanitary standards. He also mentioned that it would bring reforms that will make trade and investment transparent for the international community.
In the press release, Morales Troncoso says that free trade conditions would happen in 5 years time. "The EPA contains a regional preference clause, therefore what each member of Cariforum conceded to Europe will have to apply to the other Cariforum members. This will apply to the DR 5 years after the implementation of the treaty in Haiti. Meanwhile, all the other institutional aspects of the EPA apply between the Caribbean and Europe."

Industries reject Haitian tariffs
Dominican business groups have rejected the European Union's acceptance of the unilateral imposition of tariffs by Haiti on 222 products. In a press release, the DR Industries Association said that the decision demonstrates a lack respect towards the negotiations between Cariforum and the European Union. AIRD president Manuel Diez Cabral said that this doesn't make sense because the tariffs will only make imported products more expensive, penalizing Haitian consumers.
He criticized that while the DR is being asked to reduce its tariffs, countries to which it exports should be allowed to place barriers to trade.

Everyone's got a phone
The president of the Dominican Telecommunications Institute (INDOTEL), Jose Rafael Vargas has made the point that in the DR, a country of 9.5 million inhabitants, almost the same number of telephone numbers are in use. He said this means the DR will close the year with a tele-density of 97%. He said that by February 2010, tele-density should have reached 100%.
He said that INDOTEL statistics show there are 963,265 fixed lines, or 9.9% and 8,449,283 mobile phones in use (86.7%). This adds up to 9,412,548 (96.6%) lines, in a country with a population estimated at 9,742,374 inhabitants, as reported in Hoy.
"We are far from being a society of knowledge, but at least we have reached telephone tele-density and we are moving forward on access to the Internet," he said.
He said that there are more than 415,000 Internet accounts in the DR. "We are the sixth Latin American country in terms of Internet penetration," he said. He said Internet penetration is 26.9%, of which 331,653 are residential Internet accounts and 82,913 are business Internet accounts. He made these comments during the inauguration of the Indotel recreational club at Km. 22 of Duarte Highway.

24-hour electricity not a dream
The vice-president of the State Electricity Companies (CDEEE), Celso Marranzini is optimistic that there could be days without blackouts forthcoming. He said that the 24th and the 25th showed that "the country could have 24-hour energy" not just on holidays if all sectors fulfilled their obligations.
He said that the country has had bigger energy problems and has overcome them. He said that on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day there was so much energy being produced that he ordered that the San Felipe plant to be shut down for a while.

A lot is owed to EGEHID
While the Dominican Hydroelectric Enterprise (EGEHID) has surpassed its goal of producing 1,399 GWh (producing 1,449 GWh), they also had a monstrous debt collection issue. According to El Nuevo Diario, Egehid was owed RD$4.5 billion by several clients. As of the beginning of December, 12 entities owed this money: Ede-Este owes RD$774 million, Ede-Norte owes RD$1.15 billion, Ede-Sur owes RD$250 million, and the CDEEE owes RD$1.55 billion. There are other clients with lesser debts, such as Ege-Haina, which owes RD$467 million, AES Andres that owes RD$208 million, Itabo, which owes RD$101 million, Puerto Plata Electric Company that owes RD$13 million and Metaldom, which owes just RD$15,000.
One of the bright spots of the year for Egehid was the start up of the Pinalito generation facility and the Maguayal project in Azua. Another set of good points were the beginning of the tunnel bore for the Palomino dam in Bohechio in San Juan province, and the hydroelectric facility at the counter-dam of Las Barias in Peravia province, together with the advancement of the Right Arm of the North Yaque Irrigation Project (PRYN) and the start of some of the expansion work on the Hatillo Dam in Sanchez Ramirez province.

ANJE criticizes 2010 budget
The new directors of the National Young Entrepreneurs Association (ANJE) criticized the 2010 budget during the Economic Encounter at the Corripio Group breakfast meeting. The association, now led by Miguel Roig, was critical of the funds assigned to the Presidency and to Public Works. They were negative about the deficit contained in the budget and the lack of major funding for Education and Public Health, and they called for more clarity on the explicit use of the funds, especially during an election cycle.
ANJE executive secretary Biviana Rivero questioned the government's priorities and said that "really, if the country does not invest in education, there can be no development..." Miguel Roig pointed out that the issue of citizen safety was not particularly assisted with the 1% increase in the National Police budget or the 7% increase in the military budget. Eugene Rault Grullon, a member of the new ANJE board of directors, pointed to what he described as "contradictions" in the budget. He said that the government's plans are not clearly indicated in the budget, and gave as an example the proposed salary increase for state sector doctors, which is not itemized in the budget.

Some economists bullish on 2010
Consumer activity is expected to surge in the first half of the year as foreign loans enter and the government injects resources during the municipal and congressional election campaign period, as reported in Diario Libre. Due to the agreement signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), lots of money will be circulating, with a broadening tax base, and there will be a great deal of public expenditures, which should produce a greater level of activity, according to economists and business leaders. Nevertheless, there exists the fear that after the application of an expansive policy during the first 6 months, beginning in the second semester, the government will be forced to apply the brakes to the economy in order to maintain macroeconomic stability.
According to the president of the National Organization of Commercial Enterprises (ONEC), Pedro Perez, the best thing for the economy would be for the government to look at 2010 as whole and not two parts. This way, as he sees it, they can guarantee stability and avoid postponing the resolution of the country's basic problems any longer. He said the country is affected by the oversized State sector, elevated levels of public and private corruption and deficits accumulated over decades in health and education.
Economist Henri Hebrard warns that care will have to be taken with the overall global economy, since the global recession has ended, but not so the economic crisis due to the high levels of unemployment in the United States and Europe. He says that until the crisis in those countries is over it will be difficult for the Dominican Republic, with an open economy, to return to the growth figures of former years, even though 2010 should be much better, especially during the first half.
Listin Diario reports that from 16 August 2008 to December, senators and deputies had approved US$1.6 billion in foreign loans.

Five held in assassination
Following investigations by the authorities, as of yesterday 5 people have been detained and the police have found the vehicle that was used by the people who shot former Colonel Jose Amado Gonzalez Gonzalez (National Police) 13 times. Gonzalez Gonzalez was under investigation for his alleged ties to the drug-trafficking fugitive Jose D. Figueroa Agosto.
In a press release published after a 4-hour meeting, Prosecutor General Radhames Jimenez Pena, National Police chief Major General Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin, DNCD head Rolando Rosado Mateo, and District Attorney for the National District, Alejandro Moscoso Segarra, said that the investigations are well advanced. A license plate OE 00234 belonging to the National Army was found in a vehicle that had been assigned to former major Bienvenido Antonio Savinon Aybar in 2005. According to other newspaper reports Savinon is being sought in connection with the case but has not been apprehended. The investigations showed that the vehicle did not belong to the Army, but rather to a "cover" company, Janes Villa, tied to the criminal network headed by Figueroa Agosto, according to the report.
The report also says that Gonzalez was already being investigated by the District Attorney and the DNCD because of his alleged links to Figueroa Agosto's criminal network. "The investigations are progressing, and in a relatively short time we hope to conclude the investigations and present the case to the courts", they added.
They told reporters that once the killing occurred, the authorities proceeded to pick up all the evidence and immediately, in strict compliance with the legal requirements, carried out a search of an apartment in Torre Serena on Anacaona Avenue, which belonged to Gonzalez and his wife, recovering a series of documents and objects, including a safe.
The report specifies that the safe was opened on 25 December in the presence of two brothers of the dead colonel and his lawyer, finding documents inside that were recorded by the prosecutors as well as the other objects and documents that were found.
Listin Diario reports that the safe removed from the apartment shortly after the murder contains important evidence. The newspaper says that shortly after the murder, the safe was removed by an active colonel, who has not been identified, but that the military officer was later obliged to hand the box to the investigators.
Gonzalez Gonzalez had been mentioned in the case against Mary Pelaez, a suspect front for drug trafficker Jose Figueroa Agosto.
Besides Jimenez Pena, Guzman Fermin, Rosado Mateo and Moscoso Segarra, assistant prosecutors Frank Soto, Bolivar Sanchez and Colonel Alejandro Dipre Sierra took part in the meeting.
Listin Diario reported on 26 December that shortly after the murder, a man who identified himself as Reynaldo Gonzalez, the victim's brother, said that his brother had been living in the Torre Serena for a few months. He said that before moving to the apartment he lived in La Agustinita, a populous low-income area north of the city, next door to Cristo Rey.

Gonzalez' murder was expected
The National Police chief has told reporters that they would file a report today on the killing of the former Lieutenant Colonel and the serious wounding of his wife Madelin Bernard. Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin said that the document was written in conjunction with the Attorney General and the National Drug Control Department (DNCD) and it contained the latest news about the investigation. He did not refer to the reported detention of 2 Army colonels and he requested patience from the media while promising the report today. Gonzalez, 40, received 13 bullet wounds, 4 of them to the head, according to the PN.
National Police chief Rafael Guillermo Guzman Fermin said that the death of former lieutenant colonel Jose Amado Gonzalez Gonzalez on 24 December outside his Torre Serena residence on Anacaona Avenue, "was to be expected and it was seen to be coming because similar events occurred in the countries that have declared war on drug trafficking and organized crime." He said that 3 months ago he had warned the Dominican public about the occurrence of these events "because organized crime was going to be hurting and this would being about violent acts and forceful collections" among people involved in this world, "besides threats against judges, prosecutors, military and police". He said that "this is the result of combat, and it means that the work is being carried out as it should be done."

Transfer of Brito is questioned
Serious concerns have been expressed at Eddy Brito's transfer to a cell near the entrance to the Najayo Model Prison, since after the assassination of the former colonel Jose A. Gonzalez Gonzalez, all witnesses in the Jose Figueroa Agosto case are believed to be subject to death threats.
Nevertheless, the Director of Prisons, Manuel de Jesus Perez Sanchez said that Brito was moved to a cell in the conjugal area near the entrance hall for security reasons. He said that he was dealing with a situation that required preventive measures that the prison authorities are determined to take, in response to events that have been occurring in the Figueroa Agosto case. Perez Sanchez told reporters that prison commander Colonel Berroa has been ordered to provide a special guard for Brito.
He said that security measures had been doubled on the inmate, who is Sobeida Felix Morel's former husband.
Nonetheless, some prisoners do their exercises in this area, which could put Brito in a dangerous position. There are other areas in the prison that provide greater security and isolation. Brito is accused of money laundering of assets coming from drug trafficking. At first, he was free on bail, but the District Attorney of the National District requested a revision and a remand to custody due to the flight risk. Figueroa Agosto had been sentenced to 209 years in jail in Puerto Rico.

Blows to drug trade in the East
Shortly before the Christmas Day holiday, National Drug Control Department chief Major General Rolando Rosado Mateo accused Ramon del Rosario Puente (alias Tono Lena) of being behind the drug drops in the east of the country. Rosario Puente has been accused of a plot to kill Rosado Mateo. Rosado Mateo said that the plot was hatched after the DNCD's success in putting a stop to the drug drops in the east. He said that the suspected drug trafficker has tried to bring in cocaine shipments on two recent occasions and has been caught. Rosado Mateo said that the Isla Saona, Boca de Yuma, San Pedro de Macoris and La Romana areas were affected by the drug drops. He said that Rosario Puente had a strong network in the region and that he directed the network that supplied cocaine to fugitive drug trafficker Jose Figueroa Agosto.
On Tuesday, 22 December, the DNCD incinerated two and a half tons of cocaine, 13 kilos of heroin, 1,111 kilos and 23,152 bushes of marijuana, 250 kilos of phenylacetic acid (used to manufacture meth/amphetamine) and 923,000 pseudo-ephedrine pills.

Mary Pelaez to Najayo
Mary Pelaez has been sent to Najayo Jail for 3 months while her case is heard by the justice system. The Prosecutor General presented proof of alleged conversations between Pelaez and fugitive drug trafficker Jose Figueroa Agosto, establishing that the latter apparently paid for the maintenance services at both residences registered in Pelaez's name in Cabarete, Puerto Plata and Arroyo Hondo, Santo Domingo.
As also reported in El Caribe, the investigation revealed that in mid-2008, Mary Elvira Pelaez Frappier, accompanied by drug trafficker Jose Figueroa Agosto, agreed with Carl Ferreira Benavides' legal representatives on the purchase of the apartment in Cabarete for US$1.2 million that was paid for by drug trafficker Figueroa Agosto, using Mary Elvira Pelaez as a front. The prosecutors say that on 23 May 2008 Figueroa Agosto and Pelaez purchased the company Enadiz S.A. with registration 23036SD and capital of RD$25,000 to place the Cabarete property. Mary's sister Adolfina Rebeca Pelaez Frappier appears as a shareholder in the company.
Mary Pelaez is accused of violating Law 72-02 on Asset Laundering and of links to fugitive drug trafficker Jose Figueroa Agosto.

Watch it or DR could become Mexico
Presidential drug advisor Marino Vinicio Castillo (Vincho) says he fears the DR could become another Mexico because justice has not worked in confronting drug trafficking. Castillo, a leading lawyer, says that this weakness in the justice system renders the country defenseless in the face of drug trafficking. He believes that there is an urgent need to strengthen the justice system and recommended setting up a special jurisdiction for judging drug trafficking cases. Castillo was interviewed during the incineration of drugs that took place on 22 December.
Castillo also said that the ample guarantees of citizen rights contained in the Dominican Penal Code have helped the law become an ally of the drug traffickers.
Listin Diario quotes the Wall Street Journal as saying that illegal drugs are the most profitable multinational in Mexico, employing 450,000 people and with an income of around US$20 billion.

A Christmas miracle
A Dominican construction worker in New York miraculously saved his life and was able to say Merry Christmas to his family. Jose Paulino plummeted 16 floors on Christmas Eve after a scaffolding plank snapped beneath his feet. He survived when the fall was broken by the scaffolding 8 floors below. The accident occurred at 580 Eighth Avenue, where Paulino was part of a work crew that was dismantling the scaffolding after repairing the facade. 29-year old Paulino lives in The Bronx. He broke 4 ribs and injured his neck, shoulder and leg, but his doctors were sending him home on Monday, 28 December.

Holiday fatalities rise to 26
The third bulletin from the Emergency Operations Center (COE) reported the deaths of 26 people during the Christmas holiday. Of the victims, 23 were killed in traffic accidents and 3 died of alcohol poisoning.
According to the report that covers the period between 24 December at 2pm and 6am Sunday, there were 114 traffic accidents affecting 264 people and involving 128 motorcycles and 56 vehicles. 55 cases of alcohol poisoning were reported, of which 14 involved minors, and another 7 cases of food poisoning. A total of 326 people were killed or injured over the Christmas holidays. COE director General Juan Manuel Mendez Garcia stressed that the toll was up compared to last year because this year the Christmas celebrations were longer.
Of the fatalities, 21 were male and 5 female. Of the total, 12 were between the ages of 2 months and 29 years of age, 6 between the ages of 30 and 39, 7 were over 40 and one was unknown. Up until now, 2 minors, one just 2 months old and the other 16 years of age, both died in motorcycle accidents, part of a total of 10 similar cases. According to the COE, the provinces with the greatest number of incident reports were Santo Domingo, Peravia (Bani), La Vega, Santiago, San Cristobal, Valverde (Mao) and Puerto Plata.
The "Born on Christmas" operation involved nearly 39,000 volunteers and members of all the emergency service groups, ended yesterday, and will resume on 31 December at 2pm and continue until 4 January. The operation includes 132 ambulances, 9 command centers, 3 helicopters and 3 mobile hospitals. The fourth bulletin from the COE will be published at 11am today.

Baseball playoffs
The round robin stage of the Dominican Winter League Championship, dedicated to the Alou Brothers, got off to an interesting start over the weekend.
In Santo Domingo's Estadio Quisqueya, the Leones del Escogido, the league leaders going into the playoffs, had to battle the Toros del Este for 11 innings before a tremendous homerun by catcher Wilkin Castillo left the Toros looking for their ride home. The homer gave the Leones a 3-2 victory.
Meanwhile the Tigres went into Death Valley, the Julian Javier Stadium in San Francisco de Macoris to face the Gigantes del Cibao. This time the Tigres came out alive, thanks in great part to fantastic pitching by the Colorado Rockies' pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez who threw 5 shutout innings and struck out 9 Gigantes. Which is not to say that things were made easy by the Gigantes, who received a excellent 6 innings of one run pitching from the Cleveland Indians' Rafael Perez. By the end of the game it was the 4-4 hitting by Timonel Perez and the 3-4 hitting by Ronnie Paulino that did in the Gigantes who fell 4-0 to the Tigres.
On Sunday, the Toros played Licey in Santo Domingo and defeated them 3-1 with Esteban German batting 3-5, as the Toros pounded out 12 hits and Licey played a sloppy 3 error baseball.
Once again Death Valley in San Francisco de Macoris lived up to it name as the Leones del Escogido visited the Julian Javier Stadium for another exciting game. This one favored the Gigantes who got a game winning double from Ramon Santiago in the bottom half of the 12th inning to leave the Leones out on the field with no place to go but home. The 4-3 victory for the Gigantes puts all 4 of the teams at 1-1.

Team W-L Avg. Diff.
ESCOGIDO 1 - 1 .500 --
LICEY 1 - 1 .500 --
AZUCAREROS 1 - 1 .500 --
GIGANTES 1 - 1 .500 --

Next games:
* Gigantes vs. Licey, Estadio Quisqueya, Santo Domingo, 7:30pm.
* Escogido vs. Toros, Estadio Francisco Micheli, La Romana, 7:30pm.
For more on holiday events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar

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